The folks that run Wingstock recently referred to us as the Phoenix wing experts. Pretty quick after that someone let us know they did not feel the same. Their reason being that we think Native New Yorker is one of the worst wing places (we don’t actually, we consider them pretty average) and we should have them ranked number one because they are the most popular and therefore they are the best.
While their appeal to popularity argument may be a fallacy it does bring up an interesting question: Are we out of touch with the average Phoenix wing eater?
To be fair, our own views on the best wings have changed a lot as we toured the Valley going to every dive bar, pizza joint, and wing spot we could find. Native New Yorker was actually my regular go-to place before we began all of this.
I have to believe, though, that most people would have a similar experience as I did and they are picking Native New Yorker as their favorite because they haven’t been exposed to better wings rather than because they have tried them all and they hold Native up as truly the best. Native New Yorker wings are not terrible, and if you are comparing them to Buffalo Wild Wings or a similar chain they are going to look pretty damn good. They just can’t hold their own with the best of local hot wings. You know, like how Pizza Hut would look pretty damn good when compared with a Totino’s frozen pizza but it isn’t going to fare very well if you compare it with Pizzeria Bianco.
Wingstock 2013 was our chance to find out if we were just elitist assholes or actually picking out some kick ass wing places (and still probably being assholes). At Wingstock 2012 we were not shy about our feelings that NY Boyz got cheated out of the King of Wings title.In our opinions, they were clear choice. We went against the majority who voted for Native New Yorker. Our favorite, NY Boyz, did win King of Wings in 2011 so that can’t count against us too much. The real test would have been Wingstock 2013. If the majority went in a totally different direction than us again then maybe we were full of shit. If they agreed with our assessment of the best wings than maybe we do know what the fuck we are talking about.
Unfortunately, Xavvi and his wife Sarah had something come up at the last minute and they weren’t able to attend this year’s event. My wife was with me again this year (probably to make sure I didn’t get wasted and try to sing a duet with Johnny Anonymous) and we ran into some friends and family.
The first thing we noticed when we got through the gates was that NY Boyz was suspiciously absent from our King of Wings ballot. A quick look around confirmed that they were not set up. This was a huge bummer because Omar, the owner of NY Boys, had told us he would be there again this year and I was eager to dig into some NY Boys wings again. Since NY Boyz has been closed a while (oh God, please make it temporary) we have been dying to get their wings again.
Also surprisingly missing was Teakwoods, last years winner for Hottest Wing. That made two of our favorites from last year that didn’t make it back this year. Luckily, there were some newcomers we were excited to see to partially make up for it.
Two of our all-time favorite wing joints were added to the list this year: ATL Wings and The Reef (formerly Draft House on the Reef). Add to that Cogburn’s Big Wings, a place we enjoyed last year and later when we went to review them, and The Hungry Monk, who we haven’t had the chance to visit but had heard lots of good things. To fill out the list Diamonds Sports Grille was back again, Native New Yorker was there defending their King of Wings title, and, finally, the chain Buffalo Wild Wings made an unfortunate appearance.
I was disappointed that Buffalo Wild Wings was invited to Wingstock this year because I always thought of this as an event to showcase local hot wing places and adding a chain kind of undermined that. Still, it would give me the opportunity to finally put BWW to the test. We have talked a lot of shit about them in the past so it was only fair we gave them an objective look to see if they can actually stack up.
The event was set up the same. They had all the wing places lined up facing the stage and you get beer and drinks on either side of the venue. They included a local Mesa brewery this time around, called Desert Eagle Brewing. I felt better paying the insane prices for beer knowing that a local brewery was getting something out of it. The prices were still crazy steep though. It didn’t help that I knocked my first cup over and dumped about $8 worth of beer in the grass.
After grabbing a beer we made our way to the far side of the amphitheatre to start our day of gluttonous wing eating at Diamonds Sports Grille. I was surprised to discover they were taking a page from Antar’s playbook from last year’s event by not even cooking wings at the Wingstock. The wings were pre-cooked and put into little warmers before being served up. As you can imagine this doesn’t do great things for the quality. They didn’t give you the satisfaction you get from a freshly fried wing.
I won’t say Diamonds Sports Grille wings were terrible but there definitely wasn’t anything especially good about them. Maybe they were relying on the sauce to save the wings but the sauce was a pretty average sauce. The one thing I can say for these wings is that it wet my appetite for some better wings to come.
Cogburn’s Big Wings was next in line. They delivered on their usual blend of huge hot wings and lots of cleavage (like Hooters if Hooters wings didn’t suck). They gave us exactly what we wanted from a place called Cogburn’s Big Wings: BIG ASS WINGS. They were cooked very well, with the tried and trusted fry ‘em, then grill ‘em cooking method that we were first introduced to at JT’s, and covered in delicious wing sauce, including an interesting Dr. Pepper BBQ in addition to their regular flavors.
My wife got the Dr. Pepper BBQ and really liked it a lot. It seemed to be a popular flavor for them. I really enjoyed their Hot and Garlic Parmesan. The Suicide wings that I loved when we visited Cogburn’s in Gilbert wasn’t on the menu at Wingstock. Maybe it was available only by request but I didn’t think to ask until we were enjoying our other flavors and moving on to the next place. They also were giving out sunscreen again this year which is a nice touch.
We made our way to ATL Wings next. This was the first time we had to wait in much of a line. The line wasn’t too long but it was noticeable. Somehow people had turned the line into a L shape that screwed up other lines and made them do the same thing. That turned into a bigger problem later when the lines got longer until some Wingstock volunteers finally got the lines straightened out much later in the day.
ATL Wings is probably my new go-to wing spot because they aren’t far from my house or work and they never disappoint when I visit. Everything I have had there is exceptional, from the Kool Aid, to the mozzarella sticks, and, most importantly, the superb wings. So, our expectations were high for ATL Wings.
While we were looking over flavor options I was excited to see a Toxic flavor that hadn’t been on the menu the last time I visited ATL Wings. I ordered up one of those and a standard Hot.
The quality was totally lived up to expectations. These wings were excellent. I think it is fair to say they were comparable to NY Boys from last year.
The Toxic wing was pretty damn hot. Definitely the hottest wing I had at this year’s Wingstock. I think it was probably about as hot as Teakwood’s Suicide wing last year. Considering that those won for the hottest wing last year that is nothing to take lightly.
After we finished up at ATL Wings we were on our way to defending King of Wings title holder, Native New Yorker. As usual the people running the booth were very nice. We ordered up some wings and just like last time they were pretty right on for the most part. The wing was a decent size (although not huge or anything), they were cooked well enough, the sauce was good but it all comes back to the one issue we just can’t get over: they bread their wings.
I can’t get past that. It just kind of ruins it for me. You DO NOT BREAD HOT WINGS. If you get wings at Anchor Bar or Duff’s in Buffalo you aren’t going to get breaded wings and for good reason. It doesn’t make them better. It takes away from a good wing. It doesn’t make it crispier (ATL Wings and Cogburn’s both had them beat on that) and it makes it taste worse so I don’t understand it at all.
If there was going to be a place that could make me wish I was back at Native having some fucking breaded wings it was potentially Buffalo Wild Wings. The moment had finally come and I was not ready for it. Walking up to Buffalo Wild Wings was like the moment before getting an IV when they are wiping down your arm with alcohol. You know the anxiousness you feel leading up to that moment is probably going to be the worst part. Except it wasn’t. Not this time.
The wings at Buffalo Wild Wings were actually somehow, inexplicably WORSE than I expected. I don’t know how it was possible. I felt like shit giving up my wing tickets for it but wanted to be thorough. I swear that the sauce on these wings looked exactly like the cat-food flavored Campbell’s wing soup we have reviewed, which is to say it looked like someone had thrown up all over my wing. And it tasted worse than it looked.
It was like biting into concentrated garbage soaked in urine. That is only a slight exaggeration. These were the only wings my wife and I couldn’t finish. We ended up throwing them away after struggling through half a goddamn wing.
I do want to be fair and give Buffalo Wild Wings credit on what they did well so here it goes: The staff running the booth were very nice. Oh, and their branding is alright, I guess.
Anyway, on to other things because I don’t want to recall the memory of those wings any longer.
Next in line was The Hungry Monk who we had heard lots of good things about before but we haven’t been out to review it yet (soon we swear!).
The Hungry Monk has a decent reputation for their wings and a pretty solid reputation as a place to get some craft beers. Sounds like our kind of place. This was probably the only place at Wingstock that I had no idea what to expect from. Turns out that I really dug their wings. My wife enjoyed them quite a bit as well.
There were some mixed feelings about this place though. As much as we liked them a lot of our friends and family actually totally hated their wings. I don’t know how to explain the wildly differing opinions when we basically agreed about every other place.
We will have to go for a real visit to see what it is like for the final verdict.
Our last wing spot to visit was The Reef. The Reef’s actual location is almost directly across the street from ATL Wings in what must somehow be becoming Arizona’s hot wing holy land because their wings kick ass too. We waited in line for these wings for a long time as they were having some issues with their fryer.
When we finally got to the front we were happy to get some solid wings to round out our list of places. I didn’t think they were quite as good as they are at the bar (nobody’s really is but this was a larger than normal gap) but they are good enough at the bar that they were still good here.
By the time we got through all of the different places there were a LOT more people at the event. The lines were getting long. ATL Wings line was hitting the stage while Johnny Anonymous was playing. Don’t be fooled though. As any Facebook hot wings expert can tell you, you have to go by the votes each place gets to see who is really popular and therefore the best.
We actually heard a few days after the event that apparently ATL Wings wasn’t prepared for how crazy their line would get. One of the other places nearby that didn’t have quite as long of a line sent over one of their cooks to help them out and when they actually started to run out of wings Native New Yorker stepped up and let them have some extra wings. By all accounts the people running the Native New Yorker at Wingstock are really stand up people and deserve to be commended for that.
ATL Wings got my vote for best wings. My wife was conflicted on whether to vote for Cogburn’s or ATL Wings but in the end ATL Wings got her vote too. It was actually hard to get our votes in there because ATL Wings votes were overflowing. Cogburn’s looked like a decent second from what we could see and Native didn’t disappoint with a decent showing for votes themselves.
Overall, the event seemed a little better than last year. There were fewer wing places but the quality of wings places seemed to have gone up. If NY Boys and Teakwoods would have been there it would have been a really impressive showing. The band’s even seemed a little better this year. Johnny Anonymous was back and the other acts were passable. No bands that you were just praying would quit playing this time around which was nice. The addition of a local brewery was great. Something I really appreciated seeing.
In all, it was a very cool event. Better than last year. Still room for improvement but I was happy to see they are getting a little better each year.
The moment of truth though was the announcement of the King of Wings. Would we be revealed as disconnected from the people or would the popular vote back us up and vouch for the places we knew were great?
First came the Hottest Wing crown which went to Cogburn’s. As I said, I didn’t see anything hotter than their Hot flavor but they must have been serving up the Suicide after all. I have been had that Suicide at Cogburn’s before and it has a hell of a burn (although the heat can be inconsistent on multiple visits) so I could totally buy them winning for hottest wing.
The King of Wings title for Wingstock 2013 went to… ATL WINGS! Definitely a deserving winner. We loved them, you guys loved them. I am glad to see them get the recognition they deserved.
As for the guy who called us out before Wingstock, he actually said after the event that he thought ATL Wings had some of the worst wings at the event. But he certainly can’t be an expert since they won the popular vote, right?Tags: beer, grilled wings, hot wings, king of wings, local beer, Serves Beer, wing event, Wingstock
This post was written by Tyler